What comes to mind when you think about play? For some of us, play is fun, something we look forward to, and a deep source of joy. For others of us, the very unpredictability and unstructured nature of play makes us uncomfortable. It won’t surprise you to realize that how you feel about play also impacts how your children learn to experience play. And, play is important for children and adults. Play gives children a chance to learn and experiment. It is one of the main ways they make sense of the world and their place in it. Play is interactive. It is best when children can interact with other people. Self-directed, imaginative play; those times when children make up and act out their own scenarios and direct the action of others, is essential. The good news? It is never too late to add more time for play for you and for your children. Make play a priority. Build in time to your family schedule to have fun together in whatever way is meaningful to you.
- Engage in creative play with your child on a regular basis.
- Allow your child to lead. When your children are young, encourage them to direct the play. They can make up the story, and tell you what your part is. You can ask, “What do you want me to say?”
- Encourage unstructured play – especially outdoors. Stretch your ability to join them in their sense of time which has no agenda and is not linear.
- Have fun! Read silly books together or change some words in your “standard” books to make them a little surprising.
- Use props. Puppets are a wonderful way for children to engage in creative, imaginative play. You can make simple puppets with markers and old socks.
- Notice how easy it is to turn things into a contest. Even though we have a lot of games that include winning and losing, play at its core is about collaboration not competition.
- Need some more ideas? This is a great article on play. And more articles: On every day play, learning to play, playing in puddles, and using playdough (with a recipe for making it at home).